Score one for the consumer against the indefatigable force of growth hacking. Ever, the photo storage app that we called out in September for spamming SMS contact lists(it rebranded fromEveralbum shortly after), has found its way back into Apples App Store after getting temporarily banned for its practices.
Ever has had a lot of negative feedback and even a couple of lawsuits over how it leads you into sharing your contacts with it, and then subsequently messaging them with its marketing. Despite that or rather, largely due tothat the app has been on a popularity tear. In the last month, it has consistently ranked No. 1or within the top 10among all Productivity apps in both the Android andiOSU.S.app stores, according to App Annie figures.
In Apples iTunes App store, however, theres been a blip: it disappeared, along with its billing function, used by payingPlususers ($9.99/month) or those who want to purchase physical photo books (which start at $19.99). From what we understand, this was squarely down to how it misled users into providing access to their contacts list and then spamming them to use the app.
According to a number of consumer complaints, Ever (then Everalbum) had duped them into spamming their friends with invites to try the service. The apps user interface used a variety of techniques to get users to agree to this invite spam. This included atricky button that heavily emphasized the option to get free storage, which then prompted you to let the appaccess your contacts). The followingscreen would show all your contacts checked by default, while the option to Deselect All was grayed out to make it less obvious.
But its unclear whether users were just confused about what they were agreeing to, or if Ever had actually used different, and less transparent, onboarding flows at other times.
The end result, however, was that many of Evers users felt they had been tricked into sending out SMS spam.
In addition, Ever also sent outa number of different and misleading SMS text messages that implied your friend had given you access to view photos in their album, or threatened a link would expire if you didnt click it soon. But users hadnt necessarily shared albums they were just navigating their way through the set-up process.
Apple removed the app from its iTunes App Store for its bad behavior specifically SMS spam and for being misleading. It was only allowed back in when the invite via text feature was removed. Google, however, never took any action, despite its recent claims of clamping down on apps that try to manipulate their rankings.
In the new version of Ever, now back on the App Store, the app no longer prompts you to sign up your friends, and it has a much clearer interface for its in-app upgrades:
Now, the options for starting a free trial are clearly labeled, and the trial only begins after you enter your TouchID and confirm your commitment to the subscription terms ($11.99/mo after the trial period.)
When testing, however, we founda new problem: after choosing to upgrade, but then cancelling before you continuedto the trial, the TouchID prompt kept popping up. We had to hit Cancel on its repeated prompts to get it to go away for good. This could be a bug with the new app, or a new means of confusing the user its unclear. (The new app does appear buggy, though the album sharing button wasnt working during tests, for instance.)
However, when sharing photos (or presumably, an album), you have to explicitly type in a contacts name or select from your recents. The app doesnt indicate itssending a text on your behalf, but at least only the recipient and not your entire address book is being bothered. The text will point your friendboth to a mobile web version of the app and to the App Store to download Ever via two included links.
While Ever may have cleaned up its act, its clear that its growth hacking techniques gave it an advantage, given its continued high ranking. That, sadly, could still encourage other nefarious app developers to use similar techniques in the future.
Unfortunately, the courts have not been on consumers side, either. Previous lawsuits related to SMS marketing citing the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act), which specifies consent requirements for marketing, have been dismissed. Theseinclude cases brought againstWhisperText(Whisper), Shopkick, Life360, Lyftand others, over the years. The suits against Ever are still pending.